Hello and welcome to Week 9 of the NBA Power Rankings, wherein the Miami Heat have become the team many folks expected them to become, just a couple months later than anticipated. They've now won 17 of their last 19 games since starting 8-7, and snagged four in a row, led by Dwyane Wade, who's scored 40+ points in two straight. Things in South Beach are starting to gel, despite the loss of Udonis Haslem -- an injury many thought would negatively affect the team's fortunes. But, speaking of injuries ...
Two of the other NBA power houses, the Dallas Mavericks and Boston Celtics, each suffered significant injuries in the past week. Mavs star Dirk Nowitzki strained his knee, though it's apparently not that serious and he is listed as day-to-day. In Beantown, Kevin Garnett suffered a right hamstring injury in their loss last night to the lowly Detroit Pistons. The severity of his battle wound is not yet known, but any absence of the team's emotional leader is likely to be painful, despite sloughing through a number of Garnett's health issues over the past three seasons. Boston has remained somewhat healthy so far, but now three of last year's starters (Garnett, Rajon Rondo, and Kendrick Perkins) have been hampered. This year's team is deeper than in the past, but can they continue on their tear?
The Philadelphia 76ers, after starting a pathetic 3-13, are now at 13-19 after winning 10 of their last 16 games. Jrue Holiday has been balling, averaging 21.3 points and 6.5 assists over Philly's last four, two of which were without "star" Andre Iguodala. Spencer Hawes, acquired from the Sacramento Kings in an offseason trade, has been improving. Hawes has 19 points and 23 rebounds over the last two games. Even much-maligned number two draft pick Evan Turner broke out for a career-high 23 points against the defensively-challenged Phoenix Suns last night.
A handful of teams, after starting hot, have fallen back to earth. The New York Knicks, who, at one point, were 16-9, have now only won two of their last six games. Free agent prize Amare Stoudemire, after scoring 30+ points in nine consecutive contests, has only scored more than 24 once since. Chris Paul and the New Orleans Hornets have also slowed significantly. There was a magical time way back in November when the Hornets were 11-1, but that time is gone -- NOLA is 7-13 since then. Paul's strong play has continued, but he's lost the support of guys like Marco Bellini (averaging 12.7 points over the first 12 games and 10 over the last 19) and Emeka Okafor (who, during one seven-game stretch, averaged only 7 points and 7.3 rebounds). And the Indiana Pacers were a respectable 11-10 before losing seven of their last nine games to tumble to 13-17.
And in local news, the Phoenix Suns have also fallen from mediocre grace. The team is also 13-17 and has lost four in a row (and four of five since the big trade), including demoralizing and embarrassing defeats to the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center and to the 76ers at home. Their defense -- despite having traded for more toughness and defense in Marcin Gortat, Mickael Pietrus and (kind of ) Vince Carter -- continues to be atrocious. After last night's loss to Philly, newbie center Gortat spoke rather bluntly to the Suns' woes. Will this serve as a rallying cry or a dividing point? Or perhaps nothing at all. This may be a long year for Suns fans.
And now, on to the rankings:
SBNation.com | NBA Power Rankings, Week 9: Celtics And Spurs Continue Dominance Despite Losses
This week the Boston Celtics retained the top spot in the East despite a loss, and the Heat stayed in second place despite a win. Meanwhile, the top three in the West kept to form, while the Nuggets slipped out of the top five.
NBA.com | Florida trip launches Mavs to No. 1
So the Mavs move all the way up from No. 5 to claim the top spot. They've lost only once in the last 37 days and are the only team besides the Heat that ranks in the top seven both offensively and defensively.
ESPN.com | NBA Basketball Power Rankings
No team has more wins against teams with winning records than the Dallas Mavericks. No team has a better road record than the Mavs, either. And no team sits above them in ESPN.com's weekly NBA Power Rankings after the Mavs' pre-Christmas road sweep of the Florida teams and the end of Boston's 14-game winning streak.
SI.com | Dallas Mavericks back on top in NBA Power Rankings
Dallas' three quality road wins (against Miami, Orlando and OKC) over the past eight days, coupled with the Celtics' Christmas Day loss to the Magic, move the Mavs back to the top spot in the Power Rankings. The other two Texas teams are on a roll, too. San Antonio and Dallas join Boston and Miami as the league's hottest teams at 9-1 over their last 10 games, and right on their heels is Yao Ming-less Houston, which has won eight of 10.
ProBasketballTalk.com | NBA Power Rankings: Dallas sweeps through Florida, right to the top
Our weekly NBA Power Rankings, where the top four teams are all 9-1 in their last 10 and probably could be ranked in any order.
FOXSports.com | NBA Power Rankings - Top 30 NBA Basketball Teams
Christmas games didn't exactly bring drama, but they did set the stage for an interesting January. Dallas stays hot but obviously needs its best player healthy. Boston has been so good that the Heat have won 14 of 15 but didn't make up any ground in the East. Orlando is the team to really watch for now, and a big week ahead should tell us a lot about the Spurs.